Washington, D.C. — A new report from the Center for American Progress outlines how North Carolina can reduce the impact of climate change in a way that addresses systemic racism and environmental justice.
The recommendations come after the state issued findings earlier this year that show North Carolina will see more extreme heat, damaging storms and floods, and rising sea levels—all to the detriment of the state’s public health, economy, and environment.
Like many other states, systemic and historic disparities in North Carolina, driven by discriminatory zoning and housing discrimination, have exacerbated the risks and effects of more extreme weather and other climate change impacts, the report finds.
Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) has committed to pursuing a comprehensive approach to tackling climate change and transitioning to a clean energy economy in ways that also advance equity and justice in the state—an approach that should serve as a model for other states in the region. To protect public health, safety, and economic security, North Carolina state leaders must take immediate action to implement the governor’s climate strategy. As described in the report, state leaders must also take more action to confront systemic racism and environmental injustice and to protect the well-being of all state residents.
“State leaders can make progress toward addressing climate change while advancing economic, racial, and environmental justice in communities across the state,” said Cathleen Kelly, senior fellow for Energy and Environment at CAP and co-author of the report. “These and other policies must be implemented without delay to protect the public health and safety of all people living in the state and to support rapid movement toward a just, inclusive, and pollution-free energy future.”
CAP outlines six ways state leaders can create safe and healthy communities and ensure access to clean and affordable energy:
- Create standards for building clean and resilient infrastructure and housing.
- Prioritize equitable housing policies and just community development.
- Accelerate cleanup of toxic sites and flood mitigation.
- Provide equitable access to clean and affordable energy.
- Support a just transition to clean energy.
- Foster inclusive and equitable public engagement.
Among the specific recommendations, the report says the state should:
- Provide funds to the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency to finance construction of new, safe, and affordable housing units that are both energy efficient and resilient to climate change risks.
- Expand investments in rental assistance and affordable housing development, increase data collection on homelessness risks, and prioritize hazard and disaster risk-reduction investments in front-line communities before and after extreme weather disasters.
- Prioritize and expedite cleanup of toxic sites—Superfund or otherwise—near residential areas, watersheds, and coastal areas at risk of flooding due to increased storms and sea level rise.
- Prioritize energy efficiency retrofits in low-income communities to lower energy bills and improve air quality.
- Increase access to sustainable and affordable energy options by creating a statewide green energy bank that would prioritize investments in low-income communities and communities of color.
For more information, or to speak with an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at gro.ssergorpnacirema@lenanahs or 202-478-6327.